Ready to Bhangra? City of Bhangra Festival Brings Music and Dance to Vancouver

Photo sourced from vibc.org

Photo sourced from vibc.org

The best of bhangra is coming to Vancouver.

The City of Bhangra Festival celebrates the high energy music and dance form from South Asia, May 28-June 6. Originating as a folk dance in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, bhangra – with its colourful costumes and elaborately choreographed routines – is perhaps best known as a staple of Bollywood films. In recent decades, it has also spread around the world, popping up everywhere from hip hop videos to celebrity fitness routines.

The 10-day City of Bhangra Festival features dance recitals, concerts, talks and more at venues across Vancouver and Surrey.  The main event is Downtown Bhangra, June 5-June 6, a full weekend of music and dancing at the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza. Each year, thousands of people gather to get enjoy free bhangra concerts, complete with whirling dancers and pulsing rhythms, from noon to 10 p.m.  

Photo sourced from vibc.org

Photo sourced from vibc.org

The festival is also a unique chance to see some of bhangra’s biggest international stars perform here in Vancouver. Singer Shazia Manzoor, a household name in India and Pakistan, takes the stage at Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 30 ($25-$100). Manzoor is known around the world for her stirring performances of traditional Punjabi and Urdu folk songs, as well as mystical Sufi poems.  Meanwhile, Vancouver’s own Raju Johal – a modern-day bhangra crooner whose 2011 single topped the World iTunes charts – brings bhangra to the Fox Cabaret on June 2 ($29).  Johal’s shows mix R&B, folk and classical music with electronic beats.

Fans looking to delve deeper into the bhangra scene can check out the free one-day Bhangra Village Conference at SFU Surrey on June 4. Local and international artists, educators, community members and bhangra enthusiasts come together to discuss and share ideas about all aspects of the bhangra movement.

Photo sourced from vibc.org

Photo sourced from vibc.org

The festival also shows off the emerging bhangra club scene. In recent years, bhangra melodies and beats have been blended with house, club and hip hop music, electrifying dance floors around the world. Downtown Vancouver’s LED Bar hosts a night of bhangra club music on May 28, with top DJs spinning a mix of traditional Indian music and contemporary hits. The festival closes out with a gala after-party at downtown’s Club Fivesixty on June 6, with London-born DJ Rekha and others mixing bhangra and electronic beats ($15).

For the full lineup of events, check out the 2015 City of Bhangra Festival website.

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